08 August 2015


Jerry, Ed, yours truly and Paul.
The third part in my Dragon Spine trilogy, the H9 Trail Marathon would be my final training run before the UTMB three weeks later. Once again, I was able to "convince" 3 of my training buddies and friends to come along, Jerry, Ed and Paul. Paul, Ed and I drove to Blairsville in two cars, since I had to leave right after the race to catch a flight to Europe the next morning. This was also the main reason I didn't attempt the 50 mile distance. Jerry took his entire family and decided to camp out, instead.

My memory is  little blurry here, but I think we grabbed dinner the night before, once again at the local pizza/past joint before heading to hotel to get some rest before race day. We drove to the race start a little early to pick up our race packet. Along with our race number we received a cool pair of running shorts with the H9 logo as well as a T-shirt. I had no goals for this race other than finish in time to get back home to pack and fly out the next morning.

The race started as expected with Perry signaling the start and our group of runners taking off. I think this was the first race I'd ever been in that had at least as many female as male participants. The four of us ran together from the start. Pretty soon, Ed and I pulled slightly ahead while Paul and Jerry stayed together a little behind us. We were moving well. not running hard, just easy and relaxed. I knew we'd have to run the Dragon Spine yet again, so I didn't want to push too hard. However, it was "just" a marathon, so I didn't want to run too easy. I took a wrong turn here and there, but overall, I was able to stay on course.

The aid stations came up at just the right moments. I continued to feel pretty good. Just over halfway through the race, I realized I had just passed the third and fourth runners. I was suddenly running top three, so my competitive nature reared its head. I was feeling good, so it was time to race. Before long, I caught up to the top two runners and we continued along together for a couple of miles before I decided to make a push on an uphill. While my training distances hadn't been what I'd hoped, I felt my climbing had gotten better, so that's when I made my push.

I quickly lost sight of them as I continued to push....until I took a wrong turn and decided to wait for the other runners to figure out how to proceed. By now, Ed had caught up to them as well and once we figured out where to go, Ed and I continued on together for a while as #1 and #2. I pulled slightly ahead and we continued to run our own races. I was starting to wear down just a little and as my mind wandered, I took a hard tumble on the final stretch of Jeep road about 2 miles from the finish.

I got up, shook of the dirt, checked out my bloody knees and continued on. I arrived at the finish just as Kena started to set up everything for the finishers. I was excited to capture the win on my last training race prior to UTMB and to top it all off, I received one of the coolest awards ever, a bobblehead garden gnome for first place along with a handmade finishers medal. Pretty cool stuff. Thanks Perry, Kena and all other volunteers for making this yet another fun day out on the trails.

H9 Gnome

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